Wednesday, 30. March 2011 7:33
This is a crosspost with the Leadership Learning Community posted Thursday, March 24th. The mission of LLC is to” strive to advance a more just and equitable society by transforming the way leadership development work is conceived, conducted and evaluated.” Their members include a diverse group of funders, practitioners and consultants, all of who are engaged in leadership development work.
When asked to prepare a post for the new Leadership Learning Community guest blog series, I was honored. Then panic set in. What could I add to the wealth and depth of research, writing and discussion on leadership? As a consultant I come in touch with leadership and leaders all the time and as the principal and founder of a consulting practice, I am a leader and strive to exercise leadership, but still, I was stymied. I decided to let it simmer for a bit. And then I came face to face with a truth I have avoided for some time now…. the discussions, dialogues, debates and desire for documentation of leadership challenge me. There, I said it. It’s out in the open. I know I cannot be the only one.
So, in the spirit of a blog being an opportunity to share ideas and engages others in reflection and perhaps exchange, here is what comes up for me when I unpack my challenge with the leadership discussion:
- Identity – How and in what ways does it come in to play in terms of one’s understanding of leadership, experience with it, and how one exercises it? If I use myself as an example, how do the various parts of me (i.e., female, African-American, 40+, born on the East Coast, heterosexual, etc.) influence how and in what ways I experience and exercise leadership? Does one have primacy?
- Context - Does the way an individual exercises leadership change depending on context? I know I show up differently (or try to) based on who is in the room and intention. I also know that because of my identity, I am perceived a certain way before I say a word. I am mindful of this when I think about how to actively exercise leadership.
- Balance of Art and Science – In our efforts to identify the component parts of leadership and what supports and strengthens it are we missing the “magic” that happens when people come together and a new context and culture is created? Networks, community mobilizations, even flash mobs are examples of context in which leadership seems different than in a traditional organizational model. But leadership also looks different depending on the identity of the leader regardless of the structure in which they are working.
- Multiple Frames-Often new ideas, research or opportunities cause a shift and frequently rejection of past approaches or frameworks which have proven to be effective and impactful. I worry that we turn away from what we know in search of some evasive and seemingly more complex approach or solution. I want us to embrace an “and” framework where we are willing, able to identify and apply the most relevant and appropriate frame given identity, context and the balance of art and science.
- Leadership Products – Lastly, how and in what ways does it matter if we have leaders who exercise leadership in whatever is currently deemed best practice? For me, and the client partners with whom we are honored to work, their exercise of leadership and role as leaders is in service of something more than a healthy organization but to contribute to a more equitable society, to level the playing field as it were.
I want to thank LLC for creating both virtual and in-person spaces to explore leadership in all its manifestations and its relevance to the work of the social and philanthropic sectors. The opportunity to have dialogue and debate advances critical analysis, theory and ideally appropriate and impactful application.